Small town Mardi Gras shame

A rockin’ Mardi Gras festival where people refuse to recycle…

Volunteering with an environmental group to walk in the town parade for the Mardi Gras festival, a group of us discussed afterwards how wrong it felt to throw plastic beads at children while holding a sign about saving the earth.

“We might as well have been tossing empty plastic water bottles on the street. Same difference,” one of the members said.

Once I finished my round in the parade, I enjoyed the festival with my friend Peggy. We sipped coffee and nibbled muffins while rooted at the front windows of the quaint, local Blue Goose coffee shop to view the end of the parade, reminding me why it’s so easy to fall in love with this town. We browsed the festival booths and I was thrilled to find so many homemade products–local baskets, sewn bags, crocheted scarves, a couple that created chimes from seashells off St. Simon’s island. Even a “survivor” who sold beer and wine home-brew kits and encouraged us to “Get it now, tomorrow may be too late.” Horrible music pounded in our ears and the intoxicating smell of fried dough hung in the air.

This food booth won my green award. They were the only ones I noticed using PAPER plates.

St. Marys really put on a Mardi Gras show. It wasn’t New Orleans, but I was impressed. I spent a few hours listening and  learning from environmentalists as they answered questions for concerned citizens about why the city didn’t recycle magazines, and how to fix various recycling snags with a phone call. I met interesting, vibrant citizens of the community and gardening club. A few youth stopped to ask questions, mainly folks over 50. Families with children wandered by eating off styrofoam plates, the majority not even giving the recycling containers a glance.

 The recycling was rounded up…

And that was it.

I was shocked. The festival started at 10 in the morning and ran all afternoon and this was all the recycling? The economy is down, maybe folks simply weren’t buying. But one peek in the trash cans as I passed by, and therein– my answer.

This is the year 2012. Recycling containers were placed alongside all the trash containers. People know what recycling is. They know what the word means. They know how to do it.

The question is–why aren’t they? Is caring regional? Because our neighbors up north have us beat on this one. The festive, colorful parade and booths suddenly took a dark turn and all I noticed was waste.

The more involved in the community I become, the more I notice when people “don’t.” Am I being too harsh on this little town to expect more? If the south is known to be associated with the word ignorance, then education is the only chance we have to change anything.

What is your city doing to educate its people in the ways of recycling? 


13 responses to “Small town Mardi Gras shame

  1. kudos for time someone must be elected to don rubber gloves and apron to retrieve aluminum cans from the –other–trash cans in plain sight and beg for more..radical guilt at work!..
    girl scouts are good at that, if they can sell cookies made with unsustainable palm oil..they can surely be harnessed with cute apronry and bag the rejects to atone for previous philosophies..i was a french scout myself..and still clean prepare like one.

    having visited the region, i can attest to the lack of environmental concern–however, i have seen much of the country’ s pockets of ‘recycling deserts’ so don’t feel that you live in an ecological vacuum there.
    bad habits die hard..and by now several generations of human dissociation with nature have coarsened the folks .
    i should have been there with a soft smile and a big bag, following the happy eaters to collect their phony dinnerware as soon as they were finished..
    thanking them PROFUSELY for recycling for the poor..poor people, poor soil, poor air and waterways…a very simple sign, large letters in bright color..or t-shirt logo ” put it in here–keep it off the streets and off the land”.
    “we buy time with your refuse. it’s your time, your health”.
    you see the sloganism there. beyond texting and vocab redux.

  2. Recycling is picked up on trash day by the company contracted to haul trash. Two separate binds are provided, one for newspaper and paper, the other plastic and glass. We’re in Volusia County, Fl. Makes it easy for us as homeowners.

  3. Sounds like a cool event. Nice job on gathering the recycling!

  4. @ Jody–thanks. It was a fun event. The music…..wasn’t the music of New Orleans. But, the ctiy did a great job. Super festive.

    @Claudia—what a progressive city you live in! We could take some lessons from you guys!

    @Nadnine—you’re right. I shouldn’t expect something that’s taken generations in the making to change. It may take a generation or two to change back. I like the idea of the free food. I told the chair of the Earthkeepers about it. She said she loved creative ideas and that we’d discuss it at tomorrow’s meeting! The girl scouts idea–genius. I’ll take it up with the board tomorrow.

    • i may be too late for the next meeting, but do please mention the great potential in harvesting the conscience of tomorrow = kids are full of ideas and have an innate sense of purpose not yet dulled by commerce.
      here are a few seeds for your fertile mind.

      1/ schools can supply names of organizations that foster volunteers..
      2/ a tiny badge to pin on shirts can identify them as “keepers of this earth”
      3/ pictures of kids from foreign towns doing the same can promote the plan..
      4/ specific neighborhood clean-ups can train them..
      5/ write copy or record radio to attract news items like a beneficial magnet.
      6/ chamber of commerce can use you to promote their events in a better light.
      7/ stores can be engaged in sales of the right products on special days for these.
      viva volunteers!

  5. Jennifer – what a beautiful town. It looks very inviting.
    When I did our little community picnic last year I found that “plastic tableware” was available made from recycled plastic and vegetarian material. That’s what I bought. I also had a separate garbage bag for recycled materials and took them home and washed them so that they could be included in my next recycling pickup.
    But I have to be honest. I saw that you just commented on my post, “The Two Seas.” I think that piece unfortunately pretty much says why so many people just don’t bother. It’s truly shameful. We are supposed to be stewards of this earth – not its despoilers.

  6. in San Francisco, for example there is not problem with metal cans or bottles because there is so many homeless people gathering it from the trash or streets for the money from recycling places. if you go by one there is HUGE line of homeless people every single day. Still there is papers and plastics left behind laying everywhere.

    Here in our apartment complex we have two huge containers: one for recycled trash and one for “the rest of it”. I always peek inside both when I go take the trash out and there is always bunch of trash in each of those contaires that shouldn’t be there (only in the container standing next to it). that is really ridiculous how ignorant people are.

  7. @ Juwannadoright—We SHANT give up. (I don’t think that’s a word, really.)
    Bless you for taking such care and concern with the community picnic. You’re such a gem!

    @ Mom Photographer—Ridiculous is the right word. But I can’t help but peek every time, even though I know it’s going to make my blood boil!

  8. Call it a work in progress, the more you and I do it, the easier it becomes to educate others. We just have to keep it up!

  9. That’s right Marcia. I’m not giving up! Thanks for pushing on too!

  10. The couple who moved out from upstairs never recycled – she said: “can’t be bothered!” Grrrrrr.

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